Sunday, 31 May 2009

Removing blue lines

The big reason behind using blue lines, apart from helping you see on the paper is that it can be easily removed in Photoshop. The same goes for red and green (RGB), but I just happen to like blue better. The blue pencil that I've fallen in love with is Uni-ball's 0.5 mm soft blue mechanical pencil. Sadly they're not sold in the UK as far as I know, but they're available online from stores like JetPens.

  1. Start out by scanning your drawing in colour. I believe that most scanners scan in RGB mode by default. What this means is that the colour in your drawing is split into three channels, Red, Green and Blue.
  2. In this case my pencils are blue so what I do is select the Blue channel. All the blue then disappears from the visible image, but it's still there. If your underdrawing was red, you'd click the red channel instead, and similarily for green.
  3. In order to get rid of the colour permanently I go to Image>Mode>Grayscale.
  4. Finally I adjust the Levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels, or Ctrl+L) to enhance the contrast of the lines. What I've found to work best is to move the rightmost lever a little bit to the left (this gets rid of the greyness of the paper) and the middle lever a bit to the right(which darkens the lines).
JetPens - Shop

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Using blue lines

There was a time when I used to think that if you couldn't nail your drawing in the first try, somehow that meant that you were a lesser artist. In recent months after listening to tons of podcasts and learning about different artists working processes I realised that more often that not, most people tend to have some kind of a rough stage.
Illustrators like James Jean can go through several series of roughs, each one gradually tidying up the concept until the final drawing is the end result. It's easy to gloss over the effort behind a well executed and well-planned illustration.

This is some work James Jean did for AND1 Shoes.

The way I draw is pretty sketchy, mostly because I'm not sure exactly what I want so I use all of those sketchy lines as little tendrils to explore possibilities. If things get too messy though, it gets difficult to tidy up and pull out details so I feel limited.
I've praised the usefulness of colour leads in a previous post, but at that point I didn't realised how important this method would become to me. Just about all of the pages in Twelfth Night were drawn by first laying down a rough in blue lines before going in and drawing the details with a normal mechanical pencil.
I believe that what James Jean does is to scan in his roughs, print it out lightly in colour and do the next stage on top of that, which is essentially the same thing.

This is a page of pencils from Twelfth Night which shows my blue lines.

Tomorrow: Removing blue lines

James Jean artwork courtesy of
James Jean - Website
Twelfth Night - SelfMadeHero

Friday, 29 May 2009

London Expo portraits

Last weekend (23-24 May) was the May edition of London MCM Expo. I shared a table with Kat and Dave from Studio Two Sides Wide on the Saturday. Since I had literally only just finished Twelfth Night a few days before Expo, there was no time to prepare anything new to sell. Kat came back from a three-week-long trip to Ghana for her university project the same morning of Expo so she didn't have much time to prepare either. To earn back the table cost we started doing on-site commissions, of which "manga portraits" proved the most popular. There was hardly a moment to spare on the Saturday, but the Saturdays are always extremely busy.

Here are a few that were drawn that weekend:

There were also few which I didn't have time to finish during the Expo so I drew them back home. This also gave me a chance to scan the artwork properly.
This group of lovely ladies were cosplaying characters from Negima.

Something I must remember to do next time is to ask people for their eye colour. It's very difficult to see in a blurry photo and since manga eyes are so big, it becomes quite an important piece of information.
For anyone who might be waiting for their portrait and might be reading this, I mailed them out today. :)

There were quite a few people who asked me about my tools. I tend to use Copic Ciao markers for my convention sketches. Copic had a stall at Expo for the first time this year so it was easy to point them in the right direction.

London MCM Expo, website.
Studio Two Sides Wide, website.
Copic Markers, website.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Twelfth Night is completed!

Last week I finished my work on Twelfth Night for SelfMadeHero.

Since starting the work in October 2008 I think I've learnt a fair amount. For one, that churning out 200 comic pages is no small feat! Mostly it's made me a lot more comfortable with drawing people and poses. During uni I really didn't draw much, so every drawing I did required considerable effort to make it look right. Twelfth Night has helped me figure out and get comfortable with a process that works for me (much thanks to my blue pencil) so drawing difficult poses isn't as daunting any more.
Soon I'll be posting a little bit more about using blue pencil for underdrawing.

Now a little early plugging for the book... Twelfth Night will be out in stores in September 2009! Meanwhile, the article series on the production of the book which I've been writing for NEO magazine will continue in August.
Last weekend a girl came up to my table at London MCM Expo and told me that she had already pre-ordered it which made my day! It is a strange feeling to see the book listed on Amazon before you've even finished it.

It's been a big project with many ups and downs along the way, certainly, but in the end I can't wait to hold the book in my hands, and that should be a good sign.